Category Archives: Just Thoughts

Cause and Effect

Have you ever wished that you could change the past?

Most of us have at some point – “If only I’d done this differently” or “If only I’d said this instead” or “If only I’d done this” or “If only I’d done that.”

Quite often, we know in the moment of choice what the “right” one is. Not always, but often. I may not know the effects of going a different way to work in the morning, but I sure as hell know where willfully picking up a drink or a drug will bring me.

Here’s how to change your past:

Recognize that you are living in what will instantly become the past *right now* – and make the best next choice that you can.

By “living in the past right now,” I don’t mean it the way that mindfulness teachers mean it – ruminating over past events instead of seeing the ugliness and beauty of the present moment.

I mean that you are literally living in what is going to instantly become the past – *right now.* By making different choices than the ones you’ve made, you will change what quickly, in less than the blink of an eye, become your future.

Everything, you included, is both an effect and a cause. You are the sum total of all of the things that have taken place, including the choices you’ve made, since wherever and whenever this universe we are living in started.

Right now – oops, it’s gone – right now is just the culmination of literally everything.

You can never know what the “right” thing to do next is. You can make an educated guess, but it’s always a roll of the dice.

But that’s OK, because the dice are loaded in your favor. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t have made it this far.

We are here to make choices and make choices and make choices again. Creating another effect that becomes another cause that becomes another effect, constantly writing everything that has already happened.

(The idea of “choice” is a big one… maybe I’ll write about and define it better someday. Spoiler Alert – it has nothing to do with “free will” as we usually think of it.)

You are who you are because of who you were a moment ago, a day ago, a week ago, and on and on and on. You are who you are because of who your parents were, who their parents were, who their parents were, and on and on and on. You are who you are because of who your neighbors were, who your friends were, who everyone who ever lived was.

You are who you are because of who the Universe was.

Create a better choice for all of us, and make the best choice you can… now (oops, it’s gone.)

[the basic idea of “changing your past by changing your future” isn’t original to me, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I first learned it. Thank you, whoever you were.]


B = MAP : Behavior is the result of Motivation, Ability, and Prompt

First I read Mini Habits. Changed my life.

Then I read Atomic Habits. Meh. Nice explanations, Gave me some ideas. Massively positive reviews, but just didn’t do it for me in the long run.

Then I read Elastic Habits. Motivated the shit out of me. Quit pretty quickly. I made it too complicated.

Now I’m reading Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg. Excited about it, but considering my history, that doesn’t mean that it’ll have a long term positive impact.

I’m only about a quarter of the way through, but I’m fascinated by the Fogg Behavior Model:

B = MAP.

Behavior is the result of Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt.

Motivation: not reliable. ’nuff said.

Ability: can be developed. I don’t remember if he says this or not, but I’m thinking that “ability” should include our belief that we have the ability. Or maybe that’s all that it is?

Prompt: something that happens just prior to the desired behavior that instigates the behavoir.

Like I said, I’m only partially through the book. While I have habits that I’m developing using methods from the other books I’ve read, the one that I’m working on now specifically using the Fogg Model is what he calls the Maui Habit:

“After I wake up and put my feet on the floor,
“I will say ‘It’s Going to be a Great Day'”

(Originally I changed it to “I’m going to make it a great day” to stress the fact that I am the one responsible for making it a great day. Then I decided to stop being so shallow and pedantic and go with the original.)

I’ve done it 5 times over the past 6 days. On the missed day, I literally forgot, and remembered about a half hour after getting out of bed. I did it as soon as I remembered, but I decided not to count it in the habit tracker that I use (Loop Habit Tracker for Android).

No, I don’t suddenly have a million dollars and six pack abs, but I did meet the woman of my dreams! (wait, never mind. that was 26 years ago.)

What I do have is the start of a healthy habit.

Because I have a prompt: feet on the floor for the first time.

Because I have the ability to do it: I can say 8 words pretty easily.

Because I have the motivation to do it: it’s a new behavior that I still want to do.

We all know that the motivation will drop off. But that’s OK, since the prompt will always be there, and the ability will be there too.

It can even be graphed out: as long as the prompt is there and the ability remains high enough, it’s going to happen.

Follow this link to see the graph.

I’m also paying close attention to how this model relates to my current bad habits.

Smoking is a good example. I haven’t smoked in 3 weeks as of this writing. This book has nothing to do with starting this quit, but it’s fascinating (and helpful!) watching how the model fits the behavior.

This is the longest I’ve gone without a cigarette in quite a while. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Motivation – there are multiple reasons to quit smoking, but reasons aren’t motivation. It took a global pandemic to get that going.

Ability – I’m using NRT (specifically, 4mg White Ice Mint Nicorette Gum) to enhance my ability to quit. Allen Carr and Joel Spitzer fanatics, don’t bother berating me in the comments. At this point, I’m perfectly happy using the gum for the rest of my life if i never have to smoke again.

Prompts – two big ones I’ve noticed are the nicotine cravings themselves and boredom. Just recognizing them as prompts helps me to deal with them quickly using the gum and ACT Defusion exercises.

I’ll be writing more about the book and model as I work my way through. What do you think about this so far?

Quantity Over Quality

It’s been a dream of mine to be a professional writer for as long as I can remember.

I’m 49 years old. I make my living as a warehouse supervisor.

I made exactly $0 from writing last year. Rough estimate – probably $400 total over my lifetime.

It’s not like I’ve been slaving away like Charles Bukowski over a typewriter getting rejection after rejection after rejection.

I’ll try for a bit, then quit. Then try for a bit, then quit.

Because I’m not William Shakespeare, and I know it.

Now I’m wondering why I ever gave a fuck about that.

No, not wondering. I have a deep seated fear of others thinking I’m stupid, of others laughing at me.

My ego (thinks that it) just can’t handle it.

At the same time, I enjoy getting content out there that helps others improve their lives. I don’t have to be William Shakespeare to do that.

But I do have to get content out there to help others improve their lives.

This morning I signed up for Four Minute Books. One of the summaries I read covers Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I haven’t finished it yet, because the first lesson that the summary offered hit me like a freight train. It was to Do The Funeral Test.

One of the questions to ask yourself: “For what do I want to be remembered.”

I’d like to be remembered for being someone who “persisted until he succeeded, despite the internal obstacles he had.”

So how do I do that?

I fucking write. I put my writing out there. No matter how imperfect (which is just a polite way of saying “shitty”) it is.

Then I remembered a story about a ceramics teacher, and found a good article about it: If You’re Stuck Creating Content, Remember The Ceramics Teacher

The point of the story is that, unless you are naturally gifted, you need to produce massive quantities of your art before you can hope to create quality.

I’m going to do that. And I’m going to do that publicly. I’m done hiding.

(Bullshit you are. You’re gonna quit again. You always do.)

Thanks for trying to protect me, Mind. I really appreciate it, but I’ve got this.



Good Morning, I Love You

I first heard of Dr. Shauna Shapiro on the Being Well Podcast. The ideas she presented are something I would have considered “sappy” and “unmasculine” not very long ago.

But I was intrigued, and have started reading her book, “Good Morning, I Love You.” Normally I wouldn’t write about a book until I’ve finished it, but there have already been a couple of things that really struck me.

Here’s one of them:

“We must change our mindset from one of self-improvement to one of self-liberation. Self-liberation means freedom from our limiting beliefs, our misguided idea that there is something wrong with us that needs to be “fixed.””

Which reminds me of something I’ve heard from Steven Hayes (paraphrasing this one) : You and your life aren’t problems to be solved, but processes to be experienced.

I’ve lived most of my life as a “personal development” addict. But the only thing that I’ve stuck to developing is a vast knowledge of personal development material. Just like food, sex, alcohol, most drugs, shopping, gambling… all the stuff that we do, but some go over the line and abuse them rather than use them – that’s what I did with personal development. I had good intentions (I think), but I used it as a distraction from life rather than as a way to engage with life. Embarrassingly, I also used my “vast knowledge” (which was 99% bullshit) so that I could feel good about myself – of course I was better than all of the people out there who didn’t care about “getting better” (whatever that means).

Liberating my mind. Moving from self-improvement to self-liberation. That’s the direction I’m going to point myself in today.

I said there were two things that struck me so far. I’ll write a second post about that one soon. A little teaser – it’s what motivated me to write this post in the first place.


Past to Future

Warning – super self indulgent me me me post coming up.

Maybe it will help someone out there, if only to let them know that others are out here, we’ve seen some shit ourselves, we’ve been able to move through it, and we care.

This morning, I had the thought that the way I’ve been living has been just plain wrong. I’m going to hit 50 this year, and I’m still ugly, sick, broke, and stupid.

Then, another thought: maybe the things I’ve been doing have been working perfectly. Everything I’ve ever done, everything I’ve experienced from the time I was able to make decisions for myself has brought me to where I am today.

Of course, there are some things that happened to me that I had no control over. Those brought me here too. But I had no control over them, so I couldn’t have “done” them differently anyway – I didn’t do them in the first place. Therefore… no fucks for them.


If I hadn’t gotten so drunk and high before the concert I was supposed to play the lead for my senior year in high school that I passed out just beforehand and couldn’t go on…

If I hadn’t engaged in sexual behavior that was ridiculously physically risky and financially devastating to both me and those who bailed me out…

If I hadn’t gotten myself kicked out of the Navy because I was too scared to commit to sobriety…

If I hadn’t spent most of the 90’s (and some of the 2000’s) in various mental hospitals and rehabs…

If I hadn’t forced my family to move halfway across the country to get away from me…

If I hadn’t run away from more jobs than I’ve had…

… I wouldn’t been where I am today.

… I wouldn’t be *who* I am today.

And you know what?

I like where I am today.

I like who I am today.

I’m not successful by the standards of the marketers of my society, but I’m (finally) ok with that. I’m generally happy. Content, yet still have a desire to grow and improve.

Let’s go over that list that Jim Rohn said to avoid becoming:

Ugly? Really?

Objectively, probably not. But objectivity about one’s physical appearance isn’t possible – eye of the beholder and so forth. Can’t really control that one, barring plastic surgery. So let’s drop ugly into the no fucks given category and move on to…

Broke? Really?

Sure, if you look at it from a straight up financial point of view, a net worth of -30K is pretty forking broke. (Shout out to my fellow Good Place fans!)

But holy shit, I *live* in the goddamn Good Place… *and* I get to fucking curse!

I get to experience:

A wife who I love and who loves me. She’s my best friend and my soulmate.

Family that I love, and who love me.

No shortage of good food to eat, both nutritious and otherwise.

A pretty nice roof over my head.

An income that provides me all of the basics, plus some creature comforts.

Both activities and medication that allow me to maintain my physical and mental health.

That last one seems like a good segue into…

Sick? Really?

From a purely physical point of view, I’ve been blessed with a naturally strong constitution. It’s amazing how healthy I am, considering all of the crazy stuff that I’ve put myself through.

On the mental side, I’m so fucking lucky it’s unbelievable. (BTW, if you don’t think there’s such a thing as depression or mental illness, fuck off now, go educate yourself, and come back when you aren’t an ignorant dingleberry.)

I’m lucky enough to have been born at a time when there is medication that exists that has helped me with my Bipolar II disorder, and to have been born into a part of society where that medication is available to me. AND to have been born at a time and in a place where there are scientifically backed therapeutic resources for people like me.

And finally…

Stupid? Really?

No. I’m not. I’ve done some pretty stupid things, but I’m not stupid. Not that the thought that I’m a dumbass doesn’t still pop into my head from time to time – I just no longer identify with it.

One of the things that I value is the alleviation of suffering, and the increase of fulfillment in the universe for all sentient beings (hat tip to Shinzen Young for the suffering/fulfillment thing).

Maybe one of the ways that I can do that is to share self-absorbent posts like these, to let others know that no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, you can use it as a stepping stone to a better live, both for you and others.

There’s a line in the Big Book of AA that says “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” It’s a beautiful place to be in. You can be there to, if you keep on moving toward it, no matter how slow you go.


Inner Critic or Inner Coach

Have you ever come across a tiny distinction that immediately changed the way you look at things?

This happened to me recently when I was listening to Episode #219: Making and Breaking Habits, Sanely of the Ten Percent Happier Podcast with Dan Harris. The guest was Kelly McGonigal, and something she said hit me hard:

“Why would you let your inner critic decide what it is you want to change?”

We all want to change something about our lives. Quit an addiction, exercise more, eat better, etc etc etc…

As a general rule, and especially if the thing you want to change is extra tough, it’s best to stick to one at a time.

But how do you choose exactly what to work on?

Don’t follow your inner critic. Do Follow your values, those things that are intrinsically meaningful to you, and link them to the behavior you want to change.

McGonigal calls the part of us that tries to shame us into change the Inner Critic. I can’t help but compare this to Steven Hayes’ Dictator Within.

But it doesn’t matter what you call it. This Inner Critical Dictator evolved to make sense of and help you survive in a hostile environment. It’s not interested in helping you create the life you want.

Here’s a few questions that are worth thinking about:

What are your values? How can you link them to your goals? Who is it that’s choosing those values and goals?

Four Mantras To Help You Become Who You Want To Be

Back in November of 2018, I wrote about my personal experience with positive affirmations – Don’t Affirm – ACT. (TLDR – affirmations bad, action good)

Over the past few days (well, it’s actually been weeks now since I started the first draft of this article), I’ve been thinking about something – I do use affirmations, but I wouldn’t call them positive ones.

Instead of “affirmation”, I prefer using the word “mantra.” I’m not the first to call them that, and there are other words that you can use as a description if “mantra” is too woo-woo new-agey for you.

I like it because of one of the definitions I’ve heard – “Mind Tool.” These phrases are tools to condition your mind and help you to become who you want to be.

Here are a few that I’ve found useful. All were passed on to me by Brian Johnson via his Optimize program. Maybe you’ll find them useful too.

1. “Bring It On”

This is my go-to when I need to get myself to do what I don’t feel like doing because of the fear of pain. The full mantra is:

“Bring it on! I love pain! Pain sets me free!”

It’s done at the top of my mental lungs – yep, I yell at myself in my head. In a kind way, of course.

It originally came from a book called “The Tools”, and it’s supposed to activate some sort of life force or somesuch thing (way too woo-woo for my taste, honestly).

Regardless of the explanation for why it works, it does work for me. But…

What about the whole “Lying to ourselves is the reason that affirmations don’t work? Do you really love pain?”

Depends on how you look at it. I definitely don’t love pain for pains sake. I *do* love pain when it helps me to grow as a person. When we look at pain in this way (not as something to be avoided, but as something to be loved) it changes the dynamic of the mantra. It changes the life we live.

Here’s a great video of Brian explaining the whole process.

2. “That’s Like Me!”

This one is used whenever we do something that you want to do again – anything from correctly performing a practical skill to acting in a way that lines up with your values.

This is an affirmation in the original sense of the word – We are reminding ourselves of the truth. When you do something right, in that moment, you are like the person you want to be. And by affirming that, you are telling your brain “More of that, please!”

I’ve written more about this particular mantra (as well as the next one) here.

3. “Needs Work”

The sibling of “That’s like me”, Loki to it’s Thor. When you do something dumb, unskillful, something that violates your values – that one “Need’s Work.” Do NOT use this to beat yourself up. It’s not a huge deal, but enough of a deal to recognize that what you just did needs to be improved in some way.

So again, an affirmation in the classical sense – yup, you done messed up. Useless to take a hammer to your psyche. Useful to recognize that you are off course and need to correct.

For consistency’s sake, here’s that “Needs Work” and “That’s Like Me!” post one more time.

4. “Do It Now”

This is the newest of my mantras. It’s a little different than the others, since I’m specifically working with it every morning (I keep forgetting to in the evenings – more on that below). It only takes about a minute, two minutes max, and is practiced when you first get up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.

This is a specific directive to your mind – a direct order to Do It Now.

(Whoops, I forgot to do it this morning! And when reviewing the material on it I realized that I haven’t done it in the evening in a while. That’s the hardest thing about all of this stuff – remembering to put it into practice. So I’ll do it now and be back in about a minute… OK, I’m back. It’s been less than a minute.)

Here’s how to do it:

Repeat the phrase “Do It Now!” to yourself at least 50 times, immediately after you get up in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. The minimum number of times is 50. When you forget to, you Do It Now.

I’ve been doing it since I first saw Brian Johnson’s (hilarious!) video on the subject. I also installed an app on my phone (Tap Counter Manager) to help me keep track of the number of times I repeat it.

A funny thing is happening – when procrastination hits, sometimes the phrase pops into my head and gets me moving. It doesn’t pop into my head all the time, and I don’t always follow it into action (a great time to “Bring It On!”), but I’d be willing to bet that … no, I’m positive that I’m getting more done because of one.

Those are my four favorite mind tools for become who I want to be: Bring It On! – That’s Like Me! – Needs Work – Do It Now!

Do you have any favorites that you like to use? Feel free to drop them in the comments – I’d love to learn about them.

Seriously… Do It Now!


“Needs Work” and “That’s Like Me!”

One of the most useful tools that I learned while subscribed to Brian Johnson’s Optimize program was the “Needs Work”/”That’s Like Me!” idea.

Brian learned it from Lanny Bassham‘s book “With Winning In Mind.”

It’s billed as a self esteem/self image building tool – but I don’t think that’s completely accurate. Trying to artificially build our self esteem can have disastrous results, both to ourselves and to those around us.

I think of it (and use it) as a method to push out of a fixed mindset and into a growth mindset.

It’s pretty easy, actually. And I like easy.

When you do something “good” (whatever good means to you) – say to yourself “That’s like me!”

When you do something “bad” (whatever bad means to you) – say to yourself “Needs work.”

No over inflated ego. No beating the hell out of yourself. Just a couple of statements of fact.

This can be used for nearly anything – I’ve used it when learning to drive one of the lift machines at work while being terrified that I was going to kill someone by knocking over all of the racking in the warehouse (like this). Whenever I placed a pallet correctly – “That’s like me!” Whenever my aim was off – “Needs work.”

I’ve also used it in relationships. When I’m not my best self to those that I love – “Needs work.” When I notice myself being kind and loving toward others – “That’s Like Me!”

It can be used when you are writing an article for your blog and the part of your brain that would rather be laying in front of the TV decides that it’s time to quit starts yammering away, but you keep putting words on the screen anyway – “That’s Like Me!” Find yourself flipping over to watch videos of forklifts destroying warehouses? “Needs Work.”

Both sides of the equation are important. Without “That’s Like Me!” we may not notice that we *are* learning and growing and give up before the magic happens. Without “Needs Work” we can become complacent and think of ourselves as better than we really are.

Maybe try it for yourself? When you find yourself using it, especially the first few times, you get a double whammy of “That’s Like Me!”, one for the thing that you’re using it on and one for the using of the tool. When you notice yourself *not* using it, just remind yourself that it “Needs Work” and move on with doing the work you need to do to become that person that you want to be.